Melton’s increased Council Tax bills blamed on government funding shortages and pressure on services

Latest Melton news EMN-190220-155043001
Latest Melton news EMN-190220-155043001
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Melton residents have been told that an increase in Council Tax is neccesary to maintain services because of an acute shortage of funding by the government.

We reported yesterday (Wednesday) that people living in an average Band D property in the borough will pay an extra £82.47 a year in Council Tax if councillors approve budget proposals next week.

This figure is made up from an anticipated increase in the various elements of the final bill, with Melton Council set to hike its share by 2.99 per cent at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

Leicestershire County Council members yesterday voted to raise their share by 3.99 per cent to add to already agreed increases in the others parts of the bill - the Police and Crime Commissioner (12.05 per cent), Leicestershire Combined Fire Authority (2.98 per cent) and parish council precepts (3.65 per cent).

Melton Council highlighted the fact that it lost £919,000 in government funding between the financial years of 2015/16 and 2019/20, which represents a 41 per cent reduction in the main grant it receives from Westminster.

This is in addition, it says, to previous reductions of £1.9million, or 57 per cent, over the period 2010/11 to 2015/16.

Council leader Joe Orson, said: “The council has continued to manage its finances well against a background of reduced government grant but looking forward, it is facing at shortfall in funding and also uncertainty around the outcome of the fairer funding review.

“While we remain committed to continue to invest in our priorities, we shall also be working with officers to deliver the savings and efficiencies required to balance the budget in the coming years.

“This includes developing further the council’s commercial aspirations to generate addition income to manage the reduction in core government funding.”

The raise in the borough council’s share of Council Tax bills equates to an extra £5.88 for the year or just under 12p per week in an average Band D property.

The council says it has had to prioritise where it spends money, by supporting an increase in local housing growth and job creation, as well as focusing n town centre improvements and tourism.

It’s budget will also deliver an increase in funding in a number of key areas, it points out, including physical activity and environmental health, as well as additional legal support to help maintain the council’s increased focus in tackling anti-social behavior and environmental crime.

There have been cuts, though, with a reduction in community grants although the council says it will continue to work with the affected groups to support them and identify alternative sources of funding, sich as through the Melton Community Lottery.

The council has also reviewed the way in which civic arrangements are delivered and there will now be a focus on organising just a number of core events for the mayor with greater emphasis being placed on supporting community activity.

Despite increasing its share of the Council Tax, the borough counicl is still looking at a shortfall in funding for the coming financial year and has had to call on its reserves to balance the budget.

The council says it hopes this is a temporary measure as it explores commerical opportunities to increase its income and with the government reviewing the way it funds councils.

County councillors approved their 3.99 increase in their share of the Melton Council Tax bill yesterday during discussions which resulted in an agreement to spend an extra £94million on services over the next four years, as well as making saving of £75million over the same period.

The increase in County Hall’s portion of the bills equates to an additional £1 a week for average Band D properties, yielding an extra £12million to invest in supporting vulnerable people. Most of this will be used to support the growth in the number of adult social care service users and children in care.

Deputy county council leader, Byron Rhodes, said: “These are challenging times.

“Rising demand for services - especially special educational needs and disability support - is ramping up pressure on our budgets.

“Add uncertainty about local government funding into the picture, and we could see more trouble ahead.

“But, taking tough decisions and saving £200million since 2010 has put us in a strong position, especially compared to other councils.

“And with savings, our books balance for two years before we see a shortfall.”

The increase in spending in the county council budget is mainly linked to growing demand for social care, special educational needs (SEND) and disability support. Its capital programme includes helping to pay for the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road, which is fully funded and is set to be the subject of a planning application later this year.

The savings will be made by reducing SEND costs by creating more school places, recruiting more in-house foster carers, reducing adult social care funding and cutting back on back office spending by improving digital technology.

Councillor Rhodes added: “As the lowest funded county, we’re using our finite resources to invest in supporting vulnerable people, set out a significant capital programme without borrowing a penny and have been named the most productive council for the second year.

“Securing funding reform remains key.

“That’s why we’re continuing to work with government ministers and do everything we can to bring about a long-term, sustainable, costed funding plan for councils.”

If Melton councillors support the proposed increase in their share next week, Council Tax bills for residents in average Band D properties in the borough will rise from £1,736.85 to £1,819.32 for the year from April.